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Being an upstart is never easy. Sullivan Higdon & Sink found that out first-hand while promoting Birch Telecom’s entry into BellSouth markets.

The Kansas City, Mo., agency’s work for Birch—which until recently was only in Southwestern Bell markets—has traditionally taken an aggressive stance, deriding its market-dominant competitor. One outdoor ad read, “One hundred percent of our customers fired SBC.”

But earlier this year, BellSouth, which is connected to Birch through a unique licensing agreement, ordered Birch to tone down its ads.

Undaunted, SHS came up with a positioning that continued Birch’s plucky theme. “The whole concept is of Birch feeling like they are being censored,” said Kim West, SHS’s integrated communications director.

The current crop of outdoor ads features a blue drape masking most of the ad, with headlines such as, “The big phone company’s lawyers told us to shut our mouths.” The campaign continues Birch’s tagline, “Your business’s best friend.”